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The Hernando tourist council okays $20,000 to get the event started in 2001.

The seed money for the Florida Blueberry Festival is on the way. The Hernando County Tourist Development Council on Friday approved $20,000 to get the event started.

The first task is to put together and mail 3,500 contest packets to art schools throughout the country to solicit designs for the festival's logo, festival committee chairwoman Michael Heard told the council.

"You basically are the first portion of my cash flow needs," Heard said during her pitch to the council at a special meeting in Brooksville. "The penetration is the biggest part of it, and that's the marketing of the contest itself."

The plan is to hold a kick-off event next year in downtown Brooksville and a multiday festival in 2012. Heard offered a glossy, bound proposal outlining the strategy, and council members liked what they saw and heard.

"Her plans and her vision of this really does sound fantastic and I think it would benefit the city and the entire county," council chairwoman Bobbi Mills said.

"This is what we've been looking for, a major event that can bring in people to stay," said council member Richard Lewis, who also sits on the Brooksville City Council.

The funding would also help the festival committee develop a website for the event. Heard said the committee is actively seeking sponsors and other stakeholders.

Local blueberry growers are already getting excited, said Sue Rupe, the tourist council's director.

One grower offered to secure hundreds of pounds of blueberries to supply the requisite pies, muffins and other fare, Rupe said.

"They're saying, 'We're behind you, we're willing.' They think it's the best thing they've heard," she said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or